"And did she do so?"
"She did, sir; every one o' them recovered, and she put it on his neighbor, poor Harry Commiskey and his family, that used to visit them every day, and from them it went over the country—and bad luck to her! Devil a man of us would have had luck or grace in the fair to-day if we had met her. That's another gift she has—to bring bad luck to any one that meets her first in the mornin'; for if they're goin' upon any business it's sure not to thrive with them. She's worse than Mrs. Lindsay; for Mrs. Lindsay, although she's unlucky to meet, and unlucky to cattle, too, has no power over any one's life; but they say it has always been in her family, too."
The equestrians then proceeded at a rather brisk pace until they had got clear of the peasants, when they pulled up a little.
"That is a strange superstition, sir," said Woodward, musingly.
"It is a very common one in this country, at all events," replied the other; "and I believe pretty general in others as well as here."
"Do you place any faith in it?" asked the other.
The stranger paused, as if investigating the subject in question, after which he replied,
"To a certain extent I do; but it is upon this principle, that I believe the force of imagination on a weak mind constitutes the malady. What is your own opinion?"
"Why, that it is not a superstition but a fact; a fact, too, which has been frequently proved; and, what is more, it is known, as the man said, to be hereditary in families."
"I don't give credence to that," said the stranger.
"Why not, sir?" replied Woodward; "are not the moral qualities hereditary? are not the tempers and dispositions hereditary, as well as decline, insanity, scrofula, and other physical complaints?"
The stranger paused again, and said, "Perhaps so. There is certainly much mystery in human nature; more, probably, than we can conceive or be aware of. Time, however, and the progress of science, will develop much. But who was this Mrs. Lindsay that the man spoke of?"
"That lady, sir," replied the other, "is my mother."
The stranger, from a feeling of delicacy, made no observation upon this, but proceeded to take another view of the same subject.
"Suppose, then," he added, "that we admit the fact that the eye of a certain individual can transfuse, by the force of strong volition, an evil influence into the being or bodily system of another—why should it happen that an eye or touch charged with beneficence, instead of evil, should fail to affect with a sanative contagion those who labor under many diseases?"
"The only reply I can make to your question," said Woodward, "is this: the one has been long and generally known to exist, whereas the latter has never been heard of, which most assuredly would not have been the case if it had ever existed; as for the cure of the King's Evil it is a royal imposture."
"I believe in the latter," observed the other calmly.
"Upon what grounds?" asked his companion.
"Simply because I know a person who possesses the sanative power I speak of."
"And I believe in the former," replied Woodward, "and upon better grounds still, because I possess it myself."
"You will pardon me," said the other; "but I hesitate to believe that."
Woodward, who felt this imputation against his veracity with resentment, suddenly pulled up his horse, and, turning himself on the saddle, looked upon his companion with an expression that was as extraordinary as it was blighting. The stranger, on the other hand, reining in his horse, and taking exactly the same attitude as Woodward, bent his eye on him in return; and there they sat opposite to each other, where we will leave them until we describe the somewhat extraordinary man who had become the fellow-traveller of the hero of the breakfast table.
He was mounted upon a powerful charger; for indeed it was evident at a glance that no other would have been equal to his weight. He was well-dressed—that is to say, in the garb of a country gentleman of the day. He wore his own hair, however, which fell in long masses over his shoulders, and a falling collar, which came down over his breast. His person was robust and healthy looking, and, what is not very usual in large men, it was remarkable for the most consummate proportion and symmetry. He wore boots and silver spurs, and his feet were unusually small, considering his size, as were also his hands. That, however, which struck the beholder with amazement, was the manly beauty of his features. At a first glance this was visible; but on contemplating them more closely you began to feel something strange and wonderful associated with a feeling of veneration and pleasure. Even this, however, was comparatively little to what a still more deliberate perusal of that face brought to light. There could be read that extraordinary union of humility and grandeur; but above all, and beyond all other expressions, there proceeded from his eyes, and radiated like a halo from every part of his countenance, a sense of power which was felt to be irresistible. His eyes, indeed, were almost transparent with light—a light so clear, benignant, and strong, that it was impossible to withstand their glance, radiant with benevolence though it was. The surrender to that glance, however, was a willing and a pleasing one. The spectator submitted to it as an individual would to the eye of a blessed spirit that was known to communicate nothing but good. There, then, they sat contemplating one another, each, as it were, in the exercise of some particular power, which, in this case, appeared to depend altogether on the expressions of the eye. The gaze was long and combative in its character, and constituted a trial of that moral strength which each, in the peculiar constitution of his being, seemed to possess. After some time, however, Woodward's glance seemed to lose its concentrative power, and gradually to become vague and blank. In a little time he felt himself rapidly losing ground, and could hardly avoid thinking that the eyes of his opponent were looking into his very soul: his eyelids quivered, his eyes assumed a dull and listless appearance, and ultimately closed for some moments—he was vanquished, and he felt it.
"What is the matter with you?" said his companion at length, "and why did you look at me with such a singular gaze? I hope you do not feel resentment at what I said. I hesitated to believe you only because I thought you might be mistaken.".
"I entertain no resentment against you," replied Woodward; "but I must confess I feel astonished. Pray, allow me to ask, sir, are you a medical man?"
"Not at all," replied the other; "I never received a medical education, and yet I perform a great number of cures."
"Then, sir," said Woodward, "I take it, with every respect, that you must be a quack."
"Did you ever know a quack to work a cure without medicine?" replied the other; "I cure without medicine, and that is more than the quack is able to do with it; I consequently, cannot be a quack."
"Then, in the devil's name, what are you?" asked Woodward, who felt that his extraordinary fellow-traveller was amusing himself at his expense.
"I reply to no interrogatory urged upon such authority," said the stranger; "but let me advise you, young man, not to allow that mysterious and malignant power which you seem to possess to gratify itself by injury to your fellow-creatures. Let it be the principal purpose of your life to serve them by every means within your reach, otherwise you will neglect to your cost those great duties for which God created you. Farewell, my friend, and remember my words; for they are uttered in a spirit of kindness and good feeling."
They had now arrived at cross-roads; the stranger turned to the right, and Woodward proceeded, as directed, toward Rathfillan House, the residence of his father.
The building was a tolerably large and comfortable one, without any pretence to architectural beauty. It had a plain porch before the hall-door, with a neat lawn, through which wound a pretty drive up to the house. On each side of the lawn was a semicircle of fine old trees, that gave an ancient appearance to the whole place.
Now, one might imagine that Woodward would have felt his heart bound with affection and delight on his return to all that ought to have been dear to him after so long an absence. So far from that, however, he returned in disappointment and ill-temper, for he calculated that unless there had been some indefensible neglect, or unjustifiable offence offered to his uncle Hamilton by his family, that gentleman, who, he knew, had the character of being both affectionate and good-natured, would never have left his property to a stranger. The alienation of this property from himself was, indeed, the bitter reflection which rankled in his heart, and established in it a hatred against the Goodwins which he resolved by some means to wreak upon them in a spirit of the blackest vengeance. Independently of this, we feel it necessary to say here, that he was utterly devoid of domestic affection, and altogether insensible to the natural claims and feelings of consanguinity. His uncle abroad, for instance, had frequently urged him to pay a visit to his relatives, and, of course, to supply him liberally with the necessary funds for the journey. To every such suggestion, however, he gave a decided negative. "If they wish to see me," he would reply, "let them come and see me: as for me, I have no wish to see them, and I shall not go."
This unnatural indifference to the claims of blood and affection, not only startled his uncle, but shook his confidence in the honor and integrity of his favorite. Some further discoveries of his dishonesty ultimately led to his expulsion from the heart of that kind relative, as well as from the hospitable roof of which he proved himself so unworthy.
With such a natural disposition, and affected as he must have been by a train of circumstances so decidedly adverse to his hopes and prospects, our readers need not feel surprised that he should return home in anything but an agreeable mood of mind.
Woodward meets a Guide—His Reception at Home—Preparations for a Fete.
Woodward rode slowly, as he indulged in those disagreeable reflections to which we alluded, until he reached a second crossroads, where he found himself somewhat at a loss whether to turn or ride straight onward. While pausing for a moment, as to which way he should take, the mellow whistle of some person behind him indulging in a light-hearted Irish air, caused him to look back, when he saw a well-made, compact, good-looking young fellow approaching, who, finding his attention evidently directed to him, concluded his melody and respectfully touched hia hat."
"Pray, my good friend," said Woodward, "can you direct me to Rathfillan, the residence of Mr. Lindsay, the magistrate?"
"Misther Lindsay's, is it?"
"Yes; I said so."
"Well, I think I can, sir."
"Yes; but are you sure of it?"
"Well, I think I am, sir."
"You think! why, d—n it, sir, do you not know whether you are or not?"
"May I ax, sir," inquired the other in his turn, "if you are a religious character?"
"WHy, what the devil has that to do with the matter in question?" said Woodward, beginning to lose his temper. "I ask you to direct me to the residence of a certain gentleman, and you ask me whether I am a religious character? What do you mean by that?"
"Why, sir," replied the man, "not much, I'm afeard—only if you had let me speak, which you didn't, God pardon you, I was going to say, that if you knew the way to heaven as well as I do to Misther Lindsay's you might call yourself a happy man, and born to luck."
Woodward looked with something of curiosity at his new companion, and was a good deal struck with his appearance. His age might be about twenty-eight or from that to thirty; his figure stout and well-made; his features were decidedly Milesian, but then they were Milesian of the best character; his mouth was firm, but his lips full, red, and handsome; his clear, merry eyes would puzzle one to determine whether they were gray or blue, so equally were the two colors blended in them. After a very brief conversation with him, no one could doubt that humor formed a predominant trait in his disposition. In fact, the spirit of the forthcoming jest was visible in his countenance before the jest itself came forth; but although his whole features bore a careless and buoyant expression, yet there was no mistaking in them the unquestionable evidences of great shrewdness and good sense. He also indulged occasionally in an ironical and comic sarcasm, which, however, was never directed against his friends; this he reserved for certain individuals whose character entitled them to it at his hands. He also drew the long-bow, when he wished, with great skill and effect. Woodward, after having scrutinized his countenance for some time, was about to make some inquiries, as a stranger, concerning his family and the reputation they bore in the neighborhood, when he found himself, considerably to his surprise, placed in the witness-box for a rather brisk fire of cross-examination.
"You are no stranger in this part of the country, I presume" said he, with a view of bringing him out for his own covert and somewhat ungenerous purposes.
"I am no stranger, sure enough, sir," replied the other, "so far as a good slice of the counthry side goes; but if I am not you are, sir, or I'm out in it."
"Yes, I am a stranger here."
"Never mind, sir, don't let that disthress you; it's a good, man's case, sir. Did you thravel far, wid submission? I spake in kindness, sir."
"Why, yes, a—a—pretty good distance; but about Mr. Lindsay and—"
"Yes, sir; crossed over, sir, I suppose? I mane from the other side?"
"O! you want to know if I crossed the Channel?"
"Had you a pleasant passage, sir?"
"Thank God! I hope you'll make a long stay with us, sir, in this part of the counthry. If you have any business to do with Mr. Lindsay—as of coorse you have—why, I don't think you and he will quarrel; and by the way, sir, I know him and the family well, and if I only got a glimpse, I could throw in a word or two to guide you in dalin' wid him—that is, if I knew the business."
"As to that," replied Woodward, "it is not very particular; I am only coming on a pretty long visit to him, and as you say you know the family, I would feel glad to hear what you think of them."
"Misther Lindsay, or rather Misther Charles, and you will have a fine time of it, sir. There's delightful fishin' here, and the best of shootin' and huntin' in harvest and winter—that is, if you stop so long."
"What kind of a man is Mr. Lindsay?"
"A fine, clever (*Portly, large, comely) man, sir; six feet in his stockin' soles, and made in proportion."
"But I want to know nothing about his figure; is the man reputed good or bad?"
"Why, just good or bad, sir, according as he's treated."
"Is he well liked, then? I trust you understand me now."
"By his friends, sir, no man betther—by them that's his enemies, not so well."
"You mentioned a son of his, Charles, I think; what kind of a young fellow is he?"
"Very like his father, sir."
"I see; well, I thank you, my friend, for the liberality of your information. Has he any daughters?"
"Two, sir; but very unlike their mother."
"Why, what kind of a woman is their mother?"
"She's a saint, sir, of a sartin class—ever and always at her prayers," (sotto voce, "such as they are—cursing her fellow-cratures from mornin' till night.")
"Well, at all events, it is a good thing to be religious."
"Devil a better, sir; but she, as I said, is a saint from—heaven" (sotto voce, "and very far from it too.) But, sir, there's a lady in this neighborhood—I won't name her—that has a tongue as sharp and poisonous as if she lived on rattlesnakes; and she has an eye of her own that they say is every bit as dangerous."
"And who is she, my good fellow?"
"Why, a very intimate friend of Mrs. Lindsay's, and seldom out of her company. Now, sir, do you see that house wid the tall chimleys, or rather do you see the tall chimleys—for you can't see the house itself? That's where the family we spake of lives, and there you'll see Mrs. Lindsay and the lady I mention."
Woodward, in fact, knew not what to make of his guide; he found him inscrutable, and deemed it useless to attempt the extortion of any further intelligence from him. The latter was ignorant that Mrs. Lindsay's son was expected home, as was every member of that gentleman's family. He had, in fact, given them no information of his return. The dishonest fraud which he had practised upon his uncle, and the apprehension that that good old man had transmitted an account of his delinquency to his relatives, prevented him from writing, lest he might, by subsequent falsehoods, contradict his uncle, and thereby involve himself in deeper disgrace. His uncle, however, was satisfied with having got rid of him, and forbore to render his relations unhappy by any complaint of his conduct. His hope was, that Woodward's expulsion from his house, and the withdrawal of his affections from him, might, upon reflection, cause him to turn over a new leaf—an effort which would have been difficult, perhaps impracticable, had he transmitted to them a full explanation of his perfidy and ingratitude.
A thought now occurred to Woodward with reference to himself. He saw that his guide, after having pointed out his father's house to him, was still keeping him company.
"Perhaps you are coming out of your way," said he; "you have been good enough to show me Mr. Lindsay's residence, and I have no further occasion for your services. I thank you: take this and drink my health;",and as he spoke he offered him some silver.
"Many thanks, sir," replied the man, in a far different tone of voice, "many thanks; but I never resave or take payment for an act of civility, especially from any gentleman on his way to the family of Mr. Lindsay. And now, sir, I will tell you honestly and openly that there is not a better gentleman alive this day than he is. Himself, his son, and daughter* are loved and honored by all that know them; and woe betide the man that 'ud dare to crock (crook) his finger at one of them."
* His daughter Jane was with a relation in England, and does not appear in this romance.
"You seem to know them very well."
"I have a good right, sir, seein' that I have been in the family ever since I was a gorson."
"And is Mrs. Lindsay as popular as her husband?"
"She is his wife, sir—the mother of his children, and my misthress; afther that you may judge for yourself."
"Of course, then, you are aware that they have a son abroad."
"I am, sir, and a fine young man they say he is. Nothing vexes them so much as that he won't come to see them. He's never off their tongue; and if he's aquil to what they say of him, upon my credit the sun needn't take the trouble of shinin' on him."
"Have they any expectation of a visit from him, do you know'?"
"Not that I hear, sir; but I know that nothing would rise the cockles of their hearts aquil to seein' him among them. Poor fellow! Mr. Hamilton's will was a bad business for him, as it was thought he'd have danced into the property. But then, they say, his other uncle will provide for him, especially as he took him from the family, by all accounts, on that condition."
This information—if information it could be called—was nothing more nor less than wormwood and gall to the gentleman on whose ears and into whose heart it fell. The consciousness of his present position—discarded by a kind uncle for dishonesty, and deprived, as he thought, by the caprice or mental imbecility, of another uncle, of a property amounting to upwards of twelve hundred per annum—sank upon his heart with a feeling which filled it with a deep and almost blasphemous resentment at every person concerned, which he could scarcely repress from the observation of his guide.
"What is your name?" said he abruptly to him; and as he asked the question he fixed a glance upon him that startled his companion.
The latter looked at him, and felt surprised at the fearful expression of his eye; in the meantime, we must say, that he had not an ounce of coward's flesh on his bones.
"What is my name, sir?" he replied. "Faith, afther that look, if you don't know my name, I do yours; there was your mother's eye fastened on me to the life. However, take it easy, sir; devil a bit I'm afeared. If you're not her son, Misther Woodward, why, I'm not Barney Casey, that's all. Don't deny it, sir; you're welcome home, and I'm glad to see you, as they all will be."
"Harkee, then," said Woodward, "you are right; but, mark me, keep quiet, and allow me to manage matters in my own way; not a syllable of the discovery you have made, or it will be worse for you. I am not a person to be trifled with."
"Troth, and you're right there, sir; it's what I often said, often say, and often will say of myself. Barney Casey is not the boy to be trifled wid."
On arriving at the house, Barney took round the horse—a hired one, by the way—to the stable, and Woodward knocked. On the door being opened, he inquired if Mr. Lindsay was within, and was answered in the affirmative.
"Will you let him know a gentleman wishes to see him for a few minutes?"
"What name, sir, shall I say?"
"O, it doesn't matter—say a gentleman."
"Step into the parlor, sir, and he will be with you immediately."
He did so, and there was but a very short time when his step-father entered. Short, as the time was, however, he could not prevent himself from reverting to the strange equestrian he had met on his way, nor to the extraordinary ascendancy he had gained over him. Another young man placed in his circumstances would have felt agitated and excited by his approaching interview with those who were so nearly related to him, and whom, besides, he had not seen for such a long period of time. To every such emotion, however, he was absolutely insensible; there was no beating pulse, no heaving of the bosom, not a nerve disturbed by the tremulous vibrations of awakened affection, no tumult of the heart, no starting tear—no! there was nothing of all this—but, on the contrary, a calm, cold, imperturbable spirit, so dead and ignorant of domestic attachment, that the man could neither feel nor understand what it meant.
When his step-father entered, he naturally bowed to the stranger, and motioned him to a seat, which the other accordingly took. Lindsay certainly was, as Barney Casey had said, a very fine-looking man for his years. He was tall, erect, and portly, somewhat inclined to corpulency, of a handsome, but florid countenance, in which might be read a large expression of cheerfulness and good humor, together with that peculiar tinge which results from conviviality. Indeed, there could scarcely be witnessed a more striking contrast than that between his open, kind-looking features, and the sharp, disagreeable symmetry which marked those of his step-son with such a dark and unpleasant character.
"My servant tells me," said Lindsay, courteously, "that you wished to see me."
"I did, sir," replied Woodward; "in that, he spoke correctly; I wished to see you, and I am glad to see you."
"I thank you, sir," replied the other, bowing again; "but—ahem—in the meantime, sir, you have the advantage of me."
"And intend to keep it, sir, for a little," replied Woodward with one of his cold smiles. "I came to speak to you, sir, concerning your son who is abroad, and to ask if you have recently heard from himself or his uncle."
"O, then, I presume, sir," replied Lindsay, "you are an acquaintance or friend of his; if so, allow me to bid you welcome; nothing, I assure you, could afford either myself or my family greater pleasure than to meet and show attention to any friend of his. Unfortunately, we have heard nothing from him or his uncle for nearly the last year and a half; but, you will be doubly welcome, sir, if you can assure us that they are both well. His uncle, or rather I should, say his grand-uncle, for in that relation he stands to him, adopted him, and a kinder man does not live."
"I believe Mr. Woodward and his uncle are both well, the former, I think, sir, is your step-son only."
"Don't say only, sir, he is just as much the son of my affection as his brother, and now, sir, may I request to know the name of the gentleman I am addressing?"
"Should you wish to see Henry Woodward himself, sir?"
"Dear sir, nothing would delight me more, and all of us, especially his mother; yet the ungrateful boy would never come near us, although he was pressed and urged to do so a hundred times."
"Well, then, sir," replied that gentleman, rising up, "he now stands before you; I am Henry Woodward, father."
A hug that half strangled him was the first acknowledgment of his identity. "Zounds, my dear Harry—Harry, my dear boy, you're welcome a thousand times, ten thousand times. Stand off a little till I look at you; fine young fellow, and your mother's image. Gadzooks, I was stupid as a block not to know you; but who would have dreamed of it. There, I say—hallo, Jenny!—come here, all of you; here is Harry at last. Are you all deaf, or asleep?"
These words he shouted out at the top of his voice, and in a few minutes his mother, Charles, and his sister Maria entered the room, the two latter in a state of transport.
"Here, Jenny, here he is; you have the first claim; confound it, Charley, Maria, don't strangle the boy; ha, ha, ha!"
In fact, the precaution, so far as the affectionate brother and sister were concerned, was anything but needless. His mother, seeing their eagerness to embrace him, which they did with tears of delight, stood calmly by until he was disentangled from their arms, when she approached him and imprinted two kisses upon his lips, with an indifference of manner that, to a stranger, would have been extraordinary, but which, to those who were present, excited no surprise; for she had scarcely, during her life, ever kissed one of her own children. Nothing, indeed, could exceed the tumultuous exultation of spirits with which they received him, nor was honest Lindsay himself less joyously affected. Yet it might be observed that there was a sparkle in the eye of his mother, which was as singular as it was concentrated and intense. Such an expression might be observed in a menagerie when a tigress, indolently dallying with one of her cubs, exhibits, even in repose, those fiery scintillations in the eye which startle the beholders. The light of that eye, though intense, was cold, calculating, and disagreeable to look upon. The frigidity of her manner and reception of him might, to a certain extent, be accounted for from the fact that she had gone to his uncle's several times for the purpose of seeing him, and watching his interests. Let us not, therefore, impute to the coldness of her habits any want of affection for him; on the contrary, his little finger was a thousand times dearer to her than the bodies and souls of all her other children, adding to them her husband himself, put together. Besides, she was perfectly unsusceptible of emotions of tenderness, and, consequently, a woman of powerful will, inflexible determination, and the most inexorable resentments. She was also ambitious, as far as she had scope for it, within her sphere of life, and would have been painfully penurious in her family, were it not that the fiery resolution of her husband, when excited by long and intolerable provocation, was at all times able to subdue her—a superiority over her will and authority which she never forgave him. In fact, she neither loved himself, nor anything in common with him; and the natural affection which he displayed on the return of her son was one reason why she received him with such apparent indifference. To all the rest of the family she had a heart of stone. Since her second marriage they had lost three children; but, so far as she was concerned, each of them went down into a tearless grave. She had once been handsome; but her beauty, like her son's, was severe and disagreeable. There is, however, such a class of beauty, and it is principally successful with men who have a penchant for overcoming difficulties, because it is well known that the fact of conciliating or subduing it is justly considered no ordinary achievement. A great number of our old maids may trace their solitude and their celibacy to the very questionable gift of such beauty, and the dispositions which usually accompany it. She was tall, and had now grown thin, and her features had become sharpened by ill-temper into those of a flesh-less, angular-faced vixen. Altogether she was a faithful exponent of her own evil and intolerable disposition; and it was said that she had inherited that and the "unlucky eye" from a family that was said to have I been deservedly unpopular, and equally unscrupulous in their resentments.
"Well, Harry," said she, after the warmhearted ebullition of feeling produced by his appearance had subsided, "so you have returned to us at last; but indeed, you return now to a blank and dismal prospect. Miss Goodwin's adder tongue has charmed the dotage of your silly old uncle to some purpose for herself."
"Confound it, Jenny," said her husband, "let the young man breathe, at least, before you bring up that eternal subject. Is not the matter over and decided and where is the use of your making both yourself and us unhappy by discussing it?"
"It may be decided, but it is not over, Lindsay," she replied; "don't imagine it: I shall pursue the Goodwins, especially that sorceress, Alice, with a vengeance that will annul the will, and circumvent those who wheedled him into the making of it. My curse upon them all, as it will be!"
"Harry, when you become better acquainted with your mother," said his step-father, "you will get sick of this. Have you breakfasted; for that is more to the point?"
"I have, sir," replied the other; "and you would scarcely guess where;" and here he smiled and glanced significantly at his mother.
"Why, I suppose," said Lindsay, "in whatever inn you stopped at."
"No," he replied; "I was obliged to seek shelter from the storm last night, and where do you think I found it?"
"Heaven knows. Where?"
"Why, with your friend and neighbor, Mr. Goodwin."
"No friend, Harry," said his mother; "don't say that."
"I slept there last night," he proceeded, "and breakfasted there this morning, and nothing could exceed the cordiality and kindness of my reception."
"Did they know who you were?" asked his mother, with evident interest.
"Not till this morning, at breakfast."
"Well," said she again, "when they heard it?"
"Why, their attention and kindness even redoubled," replied her son; "and as for Miss Goodwin herself, she's as elegant, as sweet, and as lovely a girl as I ever looked on. Mother, I beg you to entertain no implacable or inveterate enmity against her. I will stake my existence that she never stooped to any fraudulent circumvention of my poor uncle. Take my word for it, the intent and execution of the will must be accounted for otherwise."
"Well and truly said, Harry," said his step-father—"well and generously said; give me your hand,—my boy; thank you. Now, madam," he proceeded, addressing his wife, "what have you to say to the opinion of a man who has lost so much by the transaction, when you hear that that opinion is given in her favor?"
"Indeed, my dear Harry," observed his sister, "she is all that you have said of her, and much more, if you knew her as we do; she is all disinterestedness and truth, and the most unselfish girl that ever breathed."
Now, there were two persons present who paused upon hearing this intelligence; one of whom listened to it with unexpected pleasure, and the other with mingled emotions of pleasure and pain. The first of these were Mrs. Lindsay, and the other her son Charles. Mrs. Lindsay, whose eyes were not for a moment off her son, understood the significant glance he had given her when he launched forth so heartily in the praise of Alice Goodwin; neither did the same glance escape the observation of his brother Charles, who inferred, naturally enough, from the warmth of the eulogium that had been passed upon her, that she had made, perhaps, too favorable an impression upon his brother. Of this, however, the reader shall hear more in due time.
"Well," said the mother slowly, and in a meditating voice, "perhaps, after all, we may have done her injustice. If so, no person would regret it more than myself; but we shall see. You parted from them, Harry, on friendly terms?"
"I did, indeed, my dear mother, and am permitted, almost solicited, to make their further acquaintance, and cultivate a friendly intimacy with them, which I am determined to do."
"Bravo, Harry, my fine fellow; and we will be on friendly terms with them once more. Poor, honest, and honorable old Goodwin! what a pity that either disunion or enmity should subsist between us. No; the families must be once more cordial and affectionate, as they ought to be. Bravo, Harry! your return is prophetic of peace and good feeling; and, confound me, but you shall have a bonfire this night for your generosity that will shame the sun. The tar-barrels shall blaze, and the beer-barrels shall run to celebrate your appearance amongst us. Come, Charley, let us go to Rathfillan, and get the townsfolk to prepare for the fete: we must have fiddlers and pipers, and plenty of dancing. Barney Casey must go among the tenants, too, and order them all into the town. Mat Mulcahy, the inn-keeper, must give us his best room; and, my life to yours, we will have a pleasant night of it."
"George," exclaimed his wife, in a tone of querulous remonstrance, "you know how expensive—"
"Confound the expense and your penury both," exclaimed her husband; "is it to your own son, on his return to us after such an absence, that you'd grudge the expense of a blazing bonfire?"
"Not the bonfire," replied his wife, but—"
"Ay, but the cost of drink to the tenants. Why, upon my soul, Harry, your mother is anything but popular here, you must know; and I think if it were not from respect to me and the rest of the family she'd be indicted for a witch. Gadzooks, Jenny, will I never get sense or liberality into your head? Ay, and if you go on after your usual fashion, it is not unlikely that you may have a tar-barrel of your own before long. Go, you and Harry, and tell your secrets to each other while we prepare for the jubilation. In the meantime, we must get up an extempore dinner to-day—the set dinner will come in due time, and be a different affair; but at all events some of the neighbors we must have to join us in the jovialities—hurroo!"
"Well, George," said she, with her own peculiar smile, "I see you are in one of your moods to-day."
"Ay, right enough, the imperative one, my dear."
"And, so far as I am concerned, it would not certainly become me to stand in the way of any honor bestowed upon my son Harry; so I perceive you must only have it your own way—I consent."
"I don't care a fig whether you do or not. When matters come to a push, I am always master of my own house, and ever will be so—and you know it. Good-by, Harry, we will be back in time for dinner, with as many friends as we can pick up on so short notice—hurroo!"
He and Charles accordingly went forth to make the necessary preparations, and give due notice of the bonfire, after which they succeeded in securing the attendance of about a dozen guests to partake of the festivity.
Barney, in the meantime, having received his orders for collecting, or, as it was then called, warning in the tenantry to the forthcoming bonfire, proceeded upon his message in high spirits, not on account of the honor it was designed to confer on Woodward, against whom he had already conceived a strong antipathy, in consequence of the resemblance he bore to his mother, but for the sake of the fun and amusement which he purposed to enjoy at it himself. The first house he went into was a small country cabin, such as a petty farmer of five or six acres at that time occupied. The door was not of wood, but of wicker-work woven across long wattles and plastered over with clay mortar. The house had two small holes in the front side-walls to admit the light; but during severe weather these were filled up with straw or rags to keep out the storm. On one side of the door stood a large curra, or, "ould man," for it was occasionally termed both—composed of brambles and wattles tied up lengthwise together—about the height of a man and as thick as an ordinary sack. This was used, as they termed it, "to keep the wind from the door." If the blast came from the right, it was placed on that side, and if from the left, it was changed to the opposite. Chimneys, at that period, were to be found only upon the houses of extensive and wealthy farmers, the only substitute for them being a simple hole in the roof over the fireplace. The small farmer in question cultivated his acres with a spade: and after sowing his grain he harrowed it in with a large thorn bush, which he himself, or one of his sons, dragged over it with a heavy stone on the top to keep it close to the surface. When Barney entered this cabin he found the vanithee, or woman of the house, engaged in the act of grinding oats into meal for their dinner with a quern, consisting of two diminutive millstones turned by the hand; this was placed upon a praskeen, or coarse apron, spread under it on the floor to receive the meal. An old woman, her mother, sat spinning flax with the distaff—for as yet flax wheels were scarcely known—and a lubberly young fellow about sixteen, with able, well shaped limbs and great promise of bodily strength, sat before the fire managing a double task, to wit, roasting, first, a lot of potatoes in the greeshaugh, which consisted of half embers and half ashes, glowing hot; and, secondly, at a little distance from the larger lighted turf, two duck eggs, which, as well as the potatoes, he turned from time to time, that they might be equally done. All this he conducted by the aid of what was termed a muddha vristha, or rustic tongs, which was nothing more than a wattle, or stick, broken in the middle, between the ends of which he held both his potatoes and his eggs while turning them. Two good-looking, fresh-colored girls were squatted on their hunkers (hams), cutting potatoes for seed—late as the season was—with two case knives, which, had been borrowed from a neighboring farmer of some wealth. The dress of the women was similar and simple. It consisted of a long-bodied gown that had only half skirts; that is to say, instead of encompassing the whole person, the lower part of it came forward only as far as the hip bones, on each side, leaving the front of the petticoat exposed. This posterior part of the gown would, if left to fall to its full length, have formed a train behind them of at least two feet in length. It was pinned up, however, to a convenient length, and was not at all an ungraceful garment, if we except the sleeves, which went no farther than the elbows—a fashion in dress which is always unbecoming, especially when the arms are thin. The hair of the elder woman was doubled back in front, from about the middle of the forehead, and the rest of the head was covered by a dowd cap, the most primitive of all female headdresses, being a plain shell, or skull-cap, as it were, for the head, pointed behind, and without any fringe or border whatsoever. This turning up of the hair was peculiar only to married life, of which condition it was universally a badge. The young females wore theirs fastened behind by a skewer; but on this occasion one of them, the youngest, allowed it to fall in natural ringlets about her cheeks and shoulders.
"God save all here," said Barney, as he entered the house.
"God save you kindly, Barney," was the instant reply from all.
"Ah, Mrs. Davoren," he proceeded, "ever the same; by this and by that, if there's a woman living ignorant of one thing, and you are that woman."
"Sorrow off you, Barney! well, what is it?"
"Idleness, achora. Now, let me see if you have e'er a finger at all to show; for upon my honorable word they ought to be worn to the stumps long ago. Well, and how are you all? But sure I needn't ax. Faith, you're crushin' the blanter* anyhow, and that looks well."
* Blantur, a well-known description of oats. It was so called from having been originally imported from Blantire in Scotland.
"We must live, Barney; 'tis a poor shift we'd make 'idout the praties and the broghan," (meal porridge).
"What news from the big house?"
"News, is it? Come, Corney, come, girls, bounce; news is it? O, faitha', thin it's I that has the news that will make you all shake your feet to-night."
"Blessed saints, Barney what is it?"
"Bounce, I say, and off wid ye to gather brusna (dried and rotten brambles) for a bonfire in the great town of Rathfillan."
"A bonfire, Barney! Arra, why, man alive?"
"Why? Why, bekaise the masther's stepson and the misthress's own pet has come home to us to set the counthry into a state o' conflagration wid his beauty. There won't be a whole cap in the barony before this day week. They're to have fiddlers, and pipers, and dancin', and drinkin' to no end; and the glory of it is that the masther, God bless him, is to pay for all. Now!"
The younger of the two girls sprang to her feet with the elasticity and agility of a deer.
"O, beetha, Barney," she exclaimed, "but that will be the fun! And the misthress's son is home? Arra, what is he like, Barney? Is he as handsome as Masther Charles?"
"I hope he's as good," said her mother.
"As good, Bridget? No, but worth a shipload of him; he has a pair of eyes in his head, Granua," (anglice, Grace,) addressing the younger, "that 'ud turn Glendhis (the dark glen) to noonday at midnight; divil a lie in it; and his hand's never out of his pocket wid generosity."
"O, mother," said Grace, "won't we all go?"
"Don't ax your mother anything about it," replied Barney, "bekaise mother, and father, and sister, and brother, daughter and son, is all to come."
"Arra, Barney," said Bridget Davoren, for such was her name, "is this gentleman like his ecald of a mother?"
"Hasn't a feature of her purty face," he replied, "and, to the back o' that, is very much given to religion. Troth, my own opinion is, he'll be one of ourselves yet; for I can tell you a saicret about him."
"A saicret, Barney," said Grace; "maybe he's married?"
"Married, no; he tould me himself this momin' that it's not his intention ever to marry 'till he meets a purty girl to plaise him; he'll keep a loose foot, he says, and an aisy conscience till then, he says; but the saicret is this, he never aits flesh mate of a Friday—when he emit get it. Indeed, I'm afeared he's too good to be long for this world; but still, if the Lord was to take him, wouldn't it be a proof that he had a great regard for him!"
Grace Davoren was flushed and excited with delight. She was about eighteen, rather tall for her age, but roundly and exquisitely moulded; her glossy ringlets, as they danced about her cheeks and shoulders, were black as ebony; but she was no brunette; for her skin was milk white, and that portion of her bosom, which was uncovered by the simple nature of her dress, threw back a polished light like ivory; her figure was perfection, and her white legs were a finer specimen of symmetry than ever supported the body of the Venus de Medicis. This was all excellent; but it was the sparkling lustre of her eyes, and the radiance of her whole countenance, that attracted the beholder. If there was anything to be found fault with, it was in the spirit, not in the physical perfection, of her beauty. There was, for instance, too much warmth of coloring and of constitution visible in her whole exquisite person; and sometimes her glances, would puzzle you to determine whether they were those of innocence or of challenge. Be this as it may, she was a rare specimen of rustic beauty and buoyancy of spirit.
"O, Barney," said she, "that's the pleasantest news I heard this month o' Sundays—sich dancin' as we'll have! and maybe I won't foot it, and me got my new shoes and drugget gown last week;" and here she lilted a gay Irish air, to which she set a-dancing with a lightness of foot and vivacity of manner that threw her whole countenance into a most exquisite glow of mirthful beauty.
"Granua," said her mother, reprovingly, "think of yourself and what you are about; if you worn't a light-hearted, and, I'm afeard, a light-headed, girl, too, you wouldn't go on as you do, especially when you know what you know, and what Barney here, too, knows."
"Ah," said Barney, his whole manner immediately changing, "have you heard from him, poor fellow?"
"Torley's gone to the mountains," she replied, "and—but here he is. Well, Torley, what news, asthore?"
Her husband having passed a friendly greeting to Barney, sat down, and having taken off his hat, lifted the skirt of his cothamore (big coat) and wiped the perspiration off his large and manly forehead, on which, however, were the traces of deep care. He did not speak for some time, but at length said:
"Bridget, give me a drink."
His wife took a wooden noggin, which she dipped into a churn and handed him. Having finished it at a draught, he wiped his mouth with his gathered, palm, breathed deeply, but was still silent.
"Torley, did you hear me? What news of that unfortunate boy?"
"No news, Bridget, at least no good news; the boy's an outlaw, and will be an outlaw—or rather he won't be an outlaw long; they'll get him soon."
"But why would they get him? hasn't he sense enough to keep from them?"
"That's just what he has not, Bridget; he has left the mountains and come down somewhere to the Infield country; but where, I cannot make out."
"Well, asthore, he'll only bring on his own punishment. Troth, I'm not a bit sorry that Granua missed him. I never was to say, for the match, but you should have your way, and force the girl there to it, over and above. Of what use is his land and wealth to him now?"
"God's will be done," replied her husband, sorrowfully. "As for me, I can do no more in it, nor I won't. I was doing the best for my child. He'll be guided by no one's advice but his own."
"That's true," replied his wife, "you did. But here's Barney Casey, from the big house, comin' to warn the tenantry to a bonfire that's to be made to-night in Rathfillan, out of rejoicin' for the misthress's son that's come home to them."
Here Barney once more repeated the message, with which the reader is already acquainted.
"You are all to come," he proceeded, "ould and young; and to bring every one a backload of sticks and brusna to help to make the bonfire."
"Is this message from the masther or misthress, Barney?" asked Davoren.
"O, straight from himself," he replied. "I have it from his own lips. Troth he's ready to leap out of his skin wid delight."
"Bekaise," added Davoren, "if it came from the misthress, the sorrow foot either I or any one of my family would set near her; but from himself, that's a horse of another color. Tell him, Barney, we'll be there, and bring what we can to help the bonfire."
Until this moment the young fellow at the fire never uttered a syllable, nor seemed in the slightest degree conscious that there was any person in the house but himself. He was now engaged in masticating the potatoes, and eggs, the latter of which he ate with a thin splinter of bog deal, which served as a substitute for an egg-spoon, and which is to-this day used among the poor for the same purpose in the remoter parts of Ireland. At length he spoke:
"This won't be a good night for a bonfire anyhow."
"Why, Andy, abouchal?" (my boy.)
"Bekaise, mudher, the storm was in the fire* last night when I was rakin' it."
* This is a singular phenomenon, which, so far as I am aware, has never yet been noticed by any Irish or Scotch writers when describing the habits and usages of the people in either country. When stirring the greeshaugh, or red- hot ashes, at night at the settling, or mending, or Taking of the fire, a blue, phosphoric-looking light is distinctly visible in the embers, and the more visible in proportion to the feebleness of the light emitted by the fire. It is only during certain states of the atmosphere that this is seen. It is always considered as as prognostic of severe weather, and its appearance is termed as above.
"Then we'll have rough weather," said his father; "no doubt of that."
"Don't be afeard," said Barney, laughing; "take my word for it, if there's to be rough weather, and that some witch or wizard has broken bargain with the devil, the misthress has intherest to get it put off till the bonfire's over."
He then bade them good-by, and took his departure to fulfil his agreeable and welcome mission. Indeed, he spent the greater portion of the day not only in going among the tenants in person, but in sending the purport of the said mission to be borne upon the four winds of heaven through every quarter of the barony; after which he proceeded to the little market-town of Rathfillan, where he secured the services of two fiddlers and two pipers. This being accomplished, he returned home to his master's, ripe and ready for both dinner and supper; for, as he had missed the former meal, he deemed it most judicious to kill, as he said, the two birds with one stone, by demolishing them both together.
CHAPTER V. The Bonfire—The Prodigy.
Andy Davoren's prognostic, so far as the appearance of the weather went, seemed, at a first glance, to be literally built on ashes. A calm, mild, and glorious serenity lay upon the earth; the atmosphere was clear and golden; the light of the sun shot in broad, transparent beams across the wooded valleys, and poured its radiance upon the forest tops, which seemed empurpled with its rich and glowing tones. All the usual signs of change! or rough weather were wanting. Everything was quiet; and a general stillness was abroad, which, when a sound did occur, caused it to be heard at an unusual distance. Not a breath of air stirred the trees, which stood as motionless as if they had been carved of marble. Notwithstanding all these auspicious appearances, there were visible to a clear observer of nature some significant symptoms of a change. The surfaces of pools and rivers were covered with large white bubbles, which are always considered as indications of coming rain. The dung heaps, and the pools generally attached to them, emitted a fetid and offensive smell; and the pigs were seen to carry straw into their sties, or such rude covers as had been constructed for them.
In the meantime the dinner party in Lindsay's were enjoying themselves in a spirit quite as genial as his hospitality. It consisted of two or three country squires, a Captain Dowd—seldom sober—a pair of twin brothers, named Gumming, with a couple of half sirs—a class of persons who bore the same relation to a gentleman that a salmon-trout does to a salmon. The Protestant clergyman of the parish was there—a jocund, rattling fellow, who loved his glass, his dog, his gun, and, if fame did not belie him, paid more devotion to his own enjoyments than he did to his Bible. He dressed in the extreme of fashion, and was a regular dandy parson of that day. There also was! Father Magauran, the parish priest, a rosy-faced, jovial little man, with a humorous! twinkle in his blue eye, and an anterior rotundity of person that betokened a moderate relish for the convivialities. Altogether it was a merry meeting; and of the host himself it might be said that he held as conspicuous a place in the mirth as he did in the hospitality.
"Come, gentleman," said he, after the ladies had retired to the withdrawing-room, "come, gentlemen, fill high; fill your glasses."
"Troth," said the priest, "we'd put a heap on them, if we could."
"Right, Father Magauran; do put a heap on them, if you can; but, at all events, let them be brimmers; I'm going to propose a toast."
"Let it be a lady, Lindsay, if you love me," said the parson, filling his glass.
"Sorra hair I care if it is," said the priest, "provided she's dacent and attends her duty; go on, squire; give us her name at once, and don't keep the parson's teeth watering."
"Be quiet, reverend gentlemen," said Lindsay, laughing; "how can a man speak when you take the words out of his mouth?"
"The Lord forbid we'd swallow them, though," subjoined the parson; "if we did, we'd not be long in a state of decent sobriety."
"Talk about something you understand, my worthy friends, and, allow me to proceed," replied the host; "don't you know that every interruption keeps you from your glass? Gentlemen, I have great pleasure in proposing the health of my excellent and worthy step-son, who has, after a long absence, made me and all my family happy by his return amongst us. I am sure you will all like him when you come to know him, and that the longer you know him, the better you will like him. Come now, let me see the bottom of every man's glass uppermost. I do not address myself directly to the parson or the priest, because that, I know, would be, as the latter must admit, a want of confidence in their kindness.
"Parson," said the priest, in a whisper, "that last observation is gratifying from Lindsay."
"Lindsay is a gentleman," replied the other, in the same voice; "and the most popular magistrate in the barony. Come, then."
Here the worthy gentleman's health was drank with great enthusiasm, after which he thanked them in very grateful and courteous terms, paying at the same time, some rather handsome compliments to the two clergymen with respect to the appropriate gravity and exquisite polish of their manners. He saw the rapidity with which they had gulped down the wine, and felt their rudeness in interrupting Mr. Lindsay, when about to propose his health, as offensive, and he retorted it upon them with peculiar irony, that being one of the talents, which, among others, he had inherited from his mother.
"I cannot but feel myself happy," said he, "in returning to the roof of so hospitable a father; but sensible to the influences of religion, as I humbly trust I am, I must express a still higher gratification in having the delightful opportunity of making the acquaintance of two reverend gentlemen, whose proper and becoming example will, I am sure, guide my steps—if I have only grace to follow it—into those serious and primitive habits which characterize themselves, and are so decent and exemplary in the ministers of religion. They may talk of the light of the gospel; but, if I don't mistake, the light of the gospel itself might pale its ineffectual fires before that which shines in their apostolic countenances."
The mirth occasioned by this covert, but comical, rebuke, fell rather humorously upon the two worthy gentlemen, who, being certainly good-natured and excellent men, laughed heartily.
"That's a neat speech," said the parson, "but not exactly appropriate. Father Tom and I are quite unworthy of the compliment he has paid us."
"Neat," said Father Tom; "I don't know whether the gentleman has a profession or not; but from the tone and spirit in which he spoke, I think that if he has taken up any other than that of his church, he has missed his vocation. My dear parson, he talks of the light of our countenances—a light that is lit by hospitality on the one hand, and moderate social enjoyment on the other. It is a light, however, that neither of us would exchange for a pale face and an eye that seems to have something mysterious at the back of it."
"Come, come, Harry," said Lindsay, "you mustn't be bantering these two gentlemen; as I said of yourself, the longer you know them the better you will relish them. They have both too much sense to carry religion about with them like a pair of hawkers, crying out 'who'll buy, who'll buy;' neither do they wear long faces, nor make themselves disagreeable by dragging religion into every subject that becomes the topic of conversation. On the contrary, they are cheerful, moderately social, and to my own knowledge, with all their pleasantry, are active exponents of much practical benevolence to the poor. Come, man, take your wine, and enjoy good company."
"Lindsay," said one of the guests, a magistrate, "how are we to get the country quiet? Those rapparees and outlaws will play the devil with us if we don't put them down. That young scoundrel, Shawn na Middogue, is at the head of them it is said, and, it would seem, possesses the power of making himself invisible; for we cannot possibly come at him, although he has been often seen by others."
"Why, what has been Shawn's last exploit?"
"Nothing that I have heard of since Bingham's robbery; but there is none of us safe. Have you your house and premises secured?"
"Not I," replied Lindsay, "unless by good bolts and bars, together with plenty of arms and ammunition."
"How is it that these fellows are not taken?" asked another.
"Because the people protect them," said a third; "and because they have strength and activity; and thirdly, because we have no adequate force to put them down."
"All very sound reasons," replied the querist; but as to Shawn na Middogue, the people are impressed with a belief that he is under the protection of the fairies, and can't be taken on this account. Even if they were willing to give him up, which they are not, they dare not make the attempt, lest the vengeance of the fairies might come down on themselves and their cattle, in a thousand shapes."
"I will tell you what the general opinion upon the subject is," replied the other. "It seems his foster-mother was a midwife, and that she was called upon once, about the hour of midnight, to discharge the duties of her profession toward a fairyman's wife, and this she refused to do unless they conferred some gift either upon herself personally, or upon some one whom she should name. Young Shawn, it appears, was her favorite, and she got a solemn promise from them to take him under their protection, and to preserve him from danger. This is the opinion of the people; but whether it is true or not I won't undertake to determine."
"Come, gentlemen," said their host, "push the bottle; remember we must attend the bonfire."
"So," said the magistrate, "you are sending us to blazes, Mr. Lindsay."
"Well, at all events, my friends," continued Mr. Lindsay, "we must make haste, for there's little time to spare. Take your liquor, for we must soon be off. The evening is delightful. If you are for coffee, let us adjourn to the ladies; and after the bonfire we will return and make a night of it."
"Well said, Lindsay," replied the parson; "and so we will."
"Here, you young stranger," said the priest, addressing Woodward, "I'll drink your health once more in this bumper. You touched us off decently enough, but a little too much on the sharp, as you would admit if you knew us. Your health again, sir, and you are welcome among us!"
"Thank you, sir," replied Woodward; "I am glad to see that you can bear a jest from me or my father, even when it is at your own expense—your health."
"Are you a sportsman?" asked the parson; "because, if you are not, just put yourself under my patronage, and I will teach you something worth knowing. I will let you see what shooting and hunting mean."
"I am a bit of one," replied Woodward, "but shall be very happy to put myself into your hand, notwithstanding."
"If I don't lengthen your face I shall raise your heart," proceeded, the divine. "If I don't make a sportsman of you—"
"Ay," added the priest, "you will find yourself in excellent hands, Mr. Woodward."
"If I don't make a sportsman of you:—confound your grinning, Father Tom, what are you at?—I'll make a far better thing of you, that is, a good fellow, always, of course, provided that you have the materials in you."
"Not a doubt of it," added Father Tom; "you'll polish the same youth until he shines like yourself or his worthy father here. He'll give you a complexion, my boy—a commodity that you sadly want at present."
The evening was now too far advanced to think of having coffee—a beverage, by the way, to which scarcely a single soul of them was addicted. They accordingly got to their legs, and as darkness was setting in they set out for the village to witness the rejoicings. Young Woodward, however, followed his brother to the drawing-room, whither he had betaken himself at an early hour after dinner. Under their escort, their mother and sister accompanied them to the bonfire. The whole town was literally alive with animation and delight. The news of the intended bonfire had gone rapidly abroad, and the country people crowded into the town in hundreds. Nothing can at any time exceed the enthusiasm with which the Irish enter into and enjoy scenes like that to which they now flocked with such exuberant spirits. Bells were ringing, drums were beating, fifes were playing in the town, and horns sounding in every direction, both in town and country. The people were apparelled in their best costume, and many of them in that equivocal description of it which could scarcely be termed costume at all. Bareheaded and barefooted multitudes of both sexes were present, regardless of appearances, half mad with delight, and exhibiting many a frolic and gambol considerably at variance with the etiquette of fashionable life, although we question whether the most fashionable fete, of them all ever produced half so much happiness. Farmers had come from a distance in the country, mounted upon lank horses ornamented with incrusted hips, and caparisoned with long-straw back-suggauns that reached from the shoulders to the tail, under which ran a crupper of the same material, designed, in addition to a hay girth, to keep this primitive riding gear firm upon the animal's back. Behind the farmer, generally sat either a wife or a daughter, remarkable for their scarlet cloaks and blue petticoats; sometimes with shoes and stockings, and very often without them. Among those assembled, we cannot omit to mention a pretty numerous sprinkling of that class of strollers, vagabonds, and impostors with which the country, at the period of our tale, was overrun. Fortune-tellers, of both sexes, quacks, cardcutters, herbalists, cow-doctors, whisperers, with a long list of such cheats, were at the time a prevailing nuisance throughout the kingdom; nor was there a fair proportion of them wanting here. That, however, which filled the people with the most especial curiosity, awe, and interest, was the general report that nothing less than a live conjurer, who had come to town on that very evening, was then among them. The town, in fact, was crowded as if it had been for an illumination; but as illuminations, unless they could be conducted with rushlights, were pageants altogether unknown in such small remote towns as Rathfillan, the notion of one had never entered their heads. All around the country, however, even for many miles, the bonfires were blazing, and shone at immense distances from every hill-top. We have said before that Lindsay was both a popular landlord and a popular magistrate; and, on this account alone the disposition to do honor to any member of his family was recognized by the people as an act of gratitude and duty.
The town of Rathfillan presented a scene of which we who live in the present day can form but a faint conception. Yet, sooth to say, we ourselves have, about forty years ago, witnessed in remote glens and mountain fastnesses little clumps of cabins, whose inhabitants stood still in the midst even of the snail's progress which civilization had made in the rustic parts of Ireland; and who, upon examination, presented almost the same rude personal habits, antiquated social usages, agricultural ignorance, and ineradicable superstition as their ancestors did in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Lindsay, knowing how unpopular his wife was, not only among their own tenantry, but throughout the country at large, and feeling, besides, how well that unpopularity was merited, very properly left her and Maria to his son Charles, knowing that as the two last named shared in the good-will which the people bore him, their mother would be treated with forbearance and respect so long as she was in their company. He wished, besides, that Harry should seem to partake of the honor and gratitude which their enthusiasm would prompt them to pay to himself.
The whole town was one scene of life, bustle, and enjoyment. It was studded with bonfires, which were surrounded by wild groups of both sexes, some tolerably dressed, some ragged as Lazarus, and others young urchins with nothing but a slip of rag tied about their loins "to make them look jinteel and daicent." The monster bonfire, however—that which was piled up into an immense pyramid in honor of the stranger—was not ignited until the arrival of the quality. The moment the latter made their appearance it was set in a flame, and in a few minutes a blaze issued up from it into the air that not only dimmed the minor exhibitions, but cast its huge glare over the whole town, making every house and hut as distinctly visible as if it were broad daylight. Then commenced the huzzaing—the bells rang out with double energy—the drums were beaten more furiously—the large bullocks' horns were sounded until those who blew them were black in the face, and every manifestation of joy that could be made was resorted to. Fiddles and pipes were in busy requisition, and "The Boys of Rathfillan," the favorite local air, resounded in every direction. And now that the master and the quality had made their appearance, of course the drink should soon follow, and in a short time the hints to that effect began to thicken.
"Thunder and turf, Jemmy, but this is dry work; my throat's like a lime-burner's wig for want of a drop o' something to help me for the cheerin'."
Hould your tongue, Paddy; do you think the masther's honor would allow us to lose our voices in his behalf. It's himself that hasn't his heart in a trifle, God bless him."
"Ah, thin, your honor," said another fellow, in tatters, "isn't this dust and hate enough to choke a bishop? O Lord, am I able to spake at all? Upon my sowl, sir, I think there's a bonfire in my throath."
Everything, however, had been prepared to meet these demands; and in about a quarter of an hour barrels of beer and kegs of whiskey were placed under the management of persons appointed to deal out their contents to the thirsty crowds. Then commenced the dancing, whilst the huzzaing, shouting, jingling of bells, squeaking of fifes, blowing of horns, and all the other component parts of this wild melody, were once more resumed with still greater vigor. The great feat of the night, however, so far as the people were concerned, was now to take place. This was to ascertain, by superior activity, who among the young men could leap over the bonfire, when burnt down to what was considered such a state as might make the attempt a safe one. The circles about the different fires were consequently widened to leave room for the run, and then commenced those hazardous but comic performances. As may be supposed, they proceeded with various success, and occasioned the most uproarious mirth whenever any unfortunate devil who had overtasked his powers in the attempt, happened to fail, and was forced to scamper out of the subsiding flames with scorched limbs that set him a dancing without music. In fact, those possessed of activity enough to clear them were loudly cheered, and rewarded with a glass of whiskey, a temptation which had induced so many to try, and so many to fail. When these had been concluded about the minor fires, the victors and spectators repaired to the great one, to try their fortune upon a larger and more hazardous scale. It was now nearly half burned down, but was still a large, glowing mass, at least five feet high, and not less than eighteen in diameter at the base. On arriving there they all looked on in silence, appalled by its great size, and altogether deterred from so formidable an attempt.
It would be death to try it, they exclaimed; no living man could do it; an opinion which was universally acceded to, with one single exception. A thin man, rather above the middle size, dressed in a long, black coat, black breeches, and black stockings, constituted that exception. There was something peculiar, and even strikingly mysterious, in his whole appearance. His complexion was pale as that of a corpse, his eyes dead and glassy, and the muscles of his face seemed as if they were paralyzed and could not move. His right hand was thrust in his bosom, and! over his left arm he bore some dark garment of a very funereal cast, almost reminding one of a mortcloth.
"There is one," said he, in a hollow and sepulchral voice, "that could do it." Father Magauran, who was present, looked at him with surprise; as indeed did every one who had got an opportunity of seeing him.
"I know there is," he replied, "a sartin individual who could do it; ay, in troth, and maybe if he fell into the flames, too, he'd only find himself in his own element; and if it went to that could dance a hornpipe in the middle of it."
This repartee of the priest's elicited loud laughter from the by-standers, who, on turning round to see how the other bore it, found that he had disappeared. This occasioned considerable amazement, not unmixed with a still more extraordinary feeling. Nobody there knew him, nor had ever even seen him before; and in a short time the impression began to gain ground that he must have been no other than the conjurer who was said to have arrived in the town that day. In the meantime, while this point was under discussion, a clear, loud, but very mellow voice was heard about twenty yards above them, saying, "Stand aside, and make way—leave me room for a run."
The curiosity of the people was at once excited by what they had only a few minutes before pronounced to be a feat that was impossible to be accomplished. They accordingly opened a lane for the daring individual, who, they imagined, was about to submit himself to a scorching that might cost him his life. No sooner was the lane made, and the by-standers removed back, than a person evidently youthful, tall, elastic, and muscular, approached the burning mass with the speed, and lightness of a deer, and flew over it as if he had wings. A tremendous shout burst forth, which lasted for more than a minute, and the people were about to bring him to receive his reward at the whiskey keg, when it was found that he also had disappeared. This puzzled them once more, and they began to think that, there were more present at these bonfires than had ever received baptism; for they could scarcely shake themselves free of the belief that the mysterious stranger either was something supernaturally evil himself, or else the conjurer as aforesaid, who, by all accounts, was not many steps removed from such a personage. Of the young person who performed this unprecedented and terrible exploit they had little time to take any notice. Torley Davoren, however, who was one of the spectators, turned round to his wife and whispered,
"Unfortunate boy—madman I ought-to say—what devil tempted him to come here?"
"Was it him?" asked his wife.
"Whist, whist," he replied; "let us say no more about it."
In the meantime, although the youthful performer of this daring feat may be said to have passed among them like an arrow from a bow, yet it so happened that the secret of his identity did not rest solely with Torley Davoren. In a few minutes whisperings began to take place, which spread gradually through the crowd, until at length the name of Shawn na Middogue was openly pronounced, and the secret—now one no longer—was instantly sent abroad through the people, to whom his fearful leap was now no miracle. The impression so long entertained of his connection with the fairies was thus confirmed, and the black stranger was no other, perhaps, than the king of the fairies himself.
At this period of the proceedings Mrs. Lindsay, in consequence of some significant whispers which were directly levelled at her character, suggested to Maria that having seen enough of these wild proceedings, it would be more advisable to return home—a suggestion to which Maria, whose presence there at all was in deference to her father's wishes, very gladly consented. They accordingly placed themselves under the escort of the redoubtable and gallant twins, and reached home in safety.
It was now expected that the quality would go down to the inn, where the largest room had been fitted up for refreshments and dancing, and into which none but the more decent and respectable classes were admitted. There most of the beauties of the town and the adjoining neighborhood were assembled, together with their admirers, all of whom entered into the spirit of the festivity with great relish. When Lindsay and his company were about to retire from the great bonfire, the conductors of the pageant, who also acted as spokesmen on the occasion, thus addressed them:
"It's right, your honors, that you should go and see the dancin' in the inn, and no harm if you shake a heel yourselves, besides taking something to wash the dust out o' your throats; but when you come out again, if you don't find a fresh and high blaze before you still, the devil's a witch."
As they proceeded toward the inn, the consequences of the drink, which the crowd had so abundantly received, began, here and there, to manifest many unequivocal symptoms. In some places high words were going on, in others blows; and altogether the affair seemed likely to terminate in a general conflict.
"Father," said his son Charles, "had you not better try and settle these rising disturbances?"
"Not I," replied the jovial magistrate; "let them thrash one another till morning; they like it, and I make it a point never to go between the poor people and their enjoyments. Gadzooks, Charley, don't you know it would be a tame and discreditable affair without a row?"
"Yes; but now that they've got drunk, they're cheering you, and groaning my mother."
"Devil's cure to her," replied his father; "if she didn't deserve it she'd not get it. What right had she to send my bailiffs to drive their cattle without my knowledge, and to take duty fowl and duty work from them whenever my back is turned, and contrary to my wishes? Come in till we have some punch; let them shout and fight away; it wouldn't fee the thing, Charley, without it."
They found an exceedingly lively scene in the large parlor of the inn; but, in fact, every available room in the house was crowded. Then, after they had looked on for some time, every eye soon singled out the pride and beauty of the assembly in the person of Grace Davoren, whose features were animated into greater loveliness, and her eyes into greater brilliancy, by the light-hearted spirit which prevailed. She was dressed in her new drugget gown, had on her new shoes and blue stockings, a short striped blue and red petticoat, which displayed as much of her exquisite limbs as the pretty liberal fashion of the day allowed; her bust was perfection; and, as her black, natural ringlets fluttered about her milk-white neck and glowing countenance, she not only appeared inexpressibly beautiful, but seemed to feel conscious of that beauty, as was evident by a dash of pride—very charming, indeed—which shot from her eye, and mantled on her beautiful cheek.
"Why, Charles," exclaimed Woodward, addressing his brother in a whisper, "who is that lovely peasant girl?"
"Her father is one of our tenants," replied Charles; "and she was about to be married some time ago, but it was discovered, fortunately in time, that her intended husband was head and leader of the outlaws that infest the country. It was he, I believe, that leaped over the bonfire."
"Was she fond of him?"
"Well, it is not easy to say that; some say she was, and others that she was not. Barney Casey says she was very glad to escape him when he became an outlaw."
"By the way, where is Barney? I haven't seen him since I came to look at this nonsense."
"Just turn your eye to the farthest corner of the room, and you may see him in his glory."
On looking in the prescribed direction, there, sure enough, was Barney discovered making love hard and fast to a pretty girl, whom Woodward remembered to have seen that morning in Mr. Goodwin's, and with whom he (Barney) had become acquainted when the families were on terms of intimacy. The girl sat smiling on his knee, whilst Barney who had a glass of punch in his hand, kept applying it to her lips from time to time, and pressing her so lovingly toward him, that she was obliged occasionally to give him a pat upon the cheek, or to pull his whiskers. Woodward's attention, however, was transferred once more to Grace Davoren, from whom he could not keep his eyes—a fact which she soon discovered, as was evident by a slight hauteur and affectation of manner toward many of those with whom she had been previously on an equal and familiar footing.
"Charles," said he, "I must have a dance with this beautiful girl; do you think she will dance with me?"
"I cannot tell," replied his brother, "but you can ask her."
"By the way, where are my father and the rest? They have left the room."
"The landlord has got them a small apartment," replied Charles, "where they are now enjoying themselves. If you dance with Grace Davoren, however, be on your good behavior, for if you take any unbecoming liberties with her, you may repent it; don't imagine because you see these humble girls allowing their sweethearts to kiss them in corners, that either they or their friends will permit you to do so."
"That's as it may be managed, perhaps," said Woodward, who immediately approached Grace in imitation of what he had seen, and making her a low bow, said,
"I dance to you, Miss Davoren, if you will favor me."
She was then sitting, but immediately rose up, with a blushing but gratified face, and replied,
"I will, sir, but I'm not worthy to dance with a gentleman like you."
"You are worthy to dance with a prince," he replied, as he led her to their station, fronting the music.
"Well, my pretty girl," said he, "what do you wish?"
"Your will, sir, is my pleasure."
"Very well. Piper," said he, "play up 'Kiss my lady;'" which was accordingly done, and the dance commenced. Woodward thought the most popular thing he could do was to affect no superiority over the young fellows present, but, on the contrary, to imitate their style and manner of dancing as well as he could; and in this he acted with great judgment. They felt flattered and gratified even at his awkward and clumsy imitations of their steps, and received his efforts with much laughter and cheering; nor was Grace herself insensible to the mirth he occasioned. On he went, cutting and capering, until he had them in convulsions; and when the dance was ended, he seized his partner in his arms, swung her three times round, and imprinted a kiss upon her lips with such good humor that he was highly applauded. He then ordered in drink to treat her and her friends, which he distributed to them with his own hand; and after contriving to gain a few minutes' private chat with Grace, he amply rewarded the piper. He was now about to take his leave and proceed with his brother, when two women, one about thirty-five, and the other far advanced in years, both accosted him almost at the same moment.
"Your honor won't go," said the less aged of the two, "until you get your fortune tould."
"To be sure he won't, Caterine," they all replied; "we'll engage the gentleman will cross your hand wid silver, like his father before him, his heart's not in the money."
"Never mind her, sir," said the aged crone, "she's a schemer, and will tell you nothing but what she knows will plaise you. Show me your hand, sir, and I'll tell you the truth."
"Never mind the calliagh, sir, (old woman, by way of reproach;) she's dotin', and hasn't remembered her own name these ten years."
"It doesn't matter," said Woodward, addressing Caterine, "I shall hear what you both have to say—but you first."
He accordingly crossed her hand with a piece of silver, after which she looked closely into it—then upon his countenance, and said,
"You have two things in your mind, and they'll both succeed."
"But, my good woman, any one might tell me as much."
"No," she replied, with confidence; "examine your own heart and you'll find the two things there that it is fixed upon; and whisper," she added, putting her lips to his ear, "I know what they are, and can help you in both. When you want me, inquire for Caterine Collins. My uncle is Sol Donnell, the herb doctor."
He smiled and nodded, but made no reply.
"Now," said he, "my old crone, come and let me hear what you have to say for me;" and as he spoke another coin was dropped into her withered and skinny hand.
"Bring me a candle," said she, in a voice that whistled with age, and if one could judge by her hag-like and repulsive features, with a malignity that was a habit of her life. After having inspected his palm with the candle, she uttered three eldrich laughs, or rather screams, that sounded through the room as if they were more than natural.
"Ha, ha, ha!" she exclaimed; "look here; there's the line of life stopped by a red instrument; that's not good; I see it, I feel it; your life will be short and your death violent; ay, indeed, the purty bonfire of your life, for all so bright as it burns, will be put out wid blood—and that soon."
"You're a d—d old croaker," said Woodward, "and take delight in predicting evil. Here, my good woman," he added, turning to the other, "there's an additional half-crown for you, and I won't forget your words."
He and Charles then joined their friends in the other room, and as it was getting late they all resolved to stroll once more through the town, in order to take a parting look at the bonfires, to wish the people good-night, and to thank them for the kindness and alacrity with which they got them up, and manifested their good feeling upon so short a notice. The large fire was again blazing, having been recruited with a fresh supply of materials. The crowd were looking on; many were staggering about, uttering a feeble huzza, in a state of complete intoxication, and the fool of the parish was attempting to dance a hornpipe, when large, blob-like drops began to fall, as happens at the commencement of a heavy shower. Lindsay put his hand to his face, on which some few of them had fallen, and, on looking at his fingers, perceived that they were spotted as if with blood!
"Good God!" he exclaimed, "what is this? Am I bleeding?"
They all stared at him, and then at each other, with dismay and horror; for there, unquestionably, was the hideous and terrible fact before them, and legible on every! face around them—it was raining blood!
An awe, which we cannot describe, and a silence, deep as that of the grave, followed this terrible prodigy. The silence did not last long, however, for in a few minutes, during which the blood fell very thickly, making their hands and visages appear as if they had been steeped in gore—in a few moments, we say, the heavens, which had become one black and dismal mass, opened, and from the chasm issued a red flash of lightning, which was followed almost immediately by a roar of thunder, so loud and terrific that the whole people became fearfully agitated as they stood round the blaze. It was extremely difficult, indeed, for ignorant persons to account for, or speculate upon, this strange and frightful phenomenon. As they stood in fear and terror, with their faces apparently bathed in blood, they seemed rather to resemble a group of hideous murderers, standing as if about to be driven into the! flames of perdition itself. To compare them to a tribe of red Indians surrounding their war fires, would be but a faint and feeble simile when contrasted with the terror which, notwithstanding the gory hue with which they were covered from top to toe, might be read in their terrified eyes and visages. After a few minutes, however, the alarm became more intense, and put itself forth into words. The fearful intelligence now spread. "It is raining blood! it is raining blood!" was shouted from every mouth; those who were in the houses rushed out, and soon found that it was true; for the red liquid was still descending, and in a few minutes they soon were as red as the others. The flight home now became one of panic; every house was crowded with strangers, who took refuge wherever they could find shelter; and in the meantime the lightning was flashing and the thunder pealing with stunning depth throughout the heavens. The bonfires were soon deserted; for even those who were drunk and tipsy had been aroused by the alarm, and the language in which it was uttered. Nobody, in fact, was left at the great fire except those who composed the dinner party, with the exception of the two clergymen, who fled and disappeared along with the mob, urged, too, by the same motives.
"This will not be believed," said Lindsay; "it is, beyond all doubt and scepticism, a prodigy from heaven, and must portend some fearful calamity. May God in heaven protect us! But who is this?"
As he spoke, a hideous old hag, bent over her staff, approached them; but it did not appear that she was about to pay them any particular attention. She was mumbling and cackling to herself when about to pass, but was addressed by Lindsay.
"Where are you going, you old hag? They say you are acquainted with more than you ought to know. Can you account for this blood that's falling?"
"Who are you that axes me?" she squeaked.
"I'm Mr. Lindsay, the magistrate."
"Ay," she screamed again, "it was for your son, Harry, na Suil Gloir, (* Suil Gloir was an epithet bestowed on persons whose eyes were of different colors) that this bonfire was made to-night. Well he knows what I tould him, and let him think of it; but there will be more blood than this, and that before long, I can tell you and him."
So saying, she hobbled on, mumbling and muttering to herself like a witch rehearsing her incantations on her way to join their sabbath. They now turned their steps homewards, but had not proceeded far, when the rain came down as it might be supposed to have done in the deluge; the, lightnings flashed, the thunder continued! to roar, and by the time they reached Rathfillan House they were absolutely drenched to the skin. The next morning, to the astonishment of the people, there was not visible a trace or fragment of the bonfires; I every vestige of them had disappeared; and the general impression now was, that there must have been something evil and unhallowed connected with the individual for whom they had been prepared.
CHAPTER VI. Shawn-na-Middogue
—Shan-Dhinne-Dhuv, or The Black Spectre.
The next evening was calm and mild; the sun shone with a serene and mellow light from the evening sky; the trees were green, and still; but the music of the blackbird and the thrush came sweetly from their leafy branches. Henry Woodward had been listening to a rather lengthy discussion upon the subject of the blood-shower, which, indeed, was the topic of much conversation and great wonder throughout the whole parish. His father, a Protestant gentleman, and with some portion of education, although not much, was, nevertheless, deeply imbued with the superstitions which prevailed around him, as, in fact, were most of those who existed in his day; the very air which he breathed was rife with them; but what puzzled him and his family most was the difficulty which they found in shaping the prodigy into significance. Why should it take place, and upon such an occasion, they could not for their lives imagine. The only persons in the family who seemed altogether indifferent to it were Woodward and his mother, both of whom treated it with ridicule and contempt.
"It comes before some calamity," observed Mr. Lindsay.
"It comes before a fiddle-stick, Lindsay," replied his wife. "Calamity! yes; perhaps you may have a headache to-morrow, for which the world must be prepared by a storm of thunder and lightning, and a shower of blood. The head that reels over night with an excess of wine and punch will ache in the morning without a prodigy to foretell it."
"Say what you will," he replied, "I believe the devil had a hand in it; and I tell you," he added, laughing, "that if you be advised by me, you'll begin to prepare yourself—'a stitch in time saves nine,' you know—so look sharp, I say."
"This, Harry," she said, addressing her son, "is the way your mother has been treated all along; yes, by a brutal and coarse-minded husband, who pays no attention to anything but his own gross and selfish enjoyments; but, thank God, I have now some person to protect me."
"O, ho!" said her husband, "you are for a battle now. Harry, you don't know her. If she lets loose that scurrilous tongue of hers I have no chance; upon my soul, I'd encounter another half dozen of thunder-storms, and as many showers of blood, sooner than come under it for ten minutes; a West India hurricane is a zephyr to it."
"Ah, God help the unhappy woman that's blistered for life with an ignorant sot!—such a woman is to be pitied.—and such a woman am I;—I, you good-for-nothing drunken booby, who made you what you are."
"O, fie! mamma," said Maria, "this is too bad to papa, who, you know, seldom replies to you at all."
"Miss Lindsay, I shall suffer none of your impertinence," said her mother; "leave the room, madam, this moment—how dare you? but I am not surprised at it;—leave the room, I say."
The poor, amiable girl, who was all fearfulness and affection, quietly left the room as she was desired, and her father, who saw that his worthy wife was brimful of a coming squall, put on his hat, and after having given one of his usual sardonic looks, left the apartment also.
"Mother," said her son Charles, "I must protest against the unjustifiable violence of temper with which you treat my father. You know he was only jesting in what he said to you this moment."
"Let him carry his jests else were, Mr. Charles," she replied, "he shan't indulge in them at my expense; nor will I have you abet him in them as you always do—yes, sir, and laugh at them in my face. All this, however, is very natural; as the old cock crows the young one learns. As for Maria, if she makes as dutiful a wife as she does a daughter, her husband may thank God for getting his full share of evil in this life."
"I protest to heaven, Harry," said Charles, addressing his brother, "if ever there was a meek, sweet-tempered girl living, Maria is. You do not yet know her, but you will, of course, have an opportunity of judging for yourself."
"You perceive, Harry," said his mother, addressing him in turn, "you perceive how they are banded against me; in fact, they are joined with their father in a conspiracy to destroy my peace and happiness. This is the feeling that prevails against me in the house at large, for which I may thank my husband and children—I don't include you, Harry. There is not a servant in our establishment but could poison me, and probably would, too, were it not for fear of the gallows."
Woodward listened to this strange scene with amazement, but was prudent enough to take no part in it whatsoever. On the contrary, he got his hat and proceeded out to take a stroll, as the evening was so fine, and the aspect of the country was so delightful.
"Harry," said his brother, "if you're for a walk I'll go with you."
"Not at present, Charley," said he, "I am in a thoughtful mood, and generally prefer a lonely stroll on such a beautiful evening as this."
He accordingly went out, and bent his I steps by a long, rude green lane, which extended upwards of half a mile across a rich! country, undulating with fields and meadows. This was terminated by a clump of, hawthorn trees, then white and fragrant with their lovely blossoms, which lay in rich profusion on the ground. Contiguous to this was a small but delightful green glen, from the side of which issued one of those beautiful spring wells for which the country is so celebrated. Over a verdant little hill, which concealed this glen and the well we mention, from a few humble houses, or rather a decenter kind of cabins, was visible a beaten pathway by which the inhabitants of this small hamlet came for their water. Upon this, shaded as he was by the trees, he steadily kept his eye for a considerable time, as if in the expectation of some person who had made an appointment to meet him. Half an hour had nearly elapsed—the shades of evening were now beginning to fall, and he had just come to the resolution of retracing his steps, with a curse of disappointment on his lips, when, on taking another, and what he intended to be a last glance at the pathway in question, he espied the individual for whom he waited. This was no other than the young beauty of the neighborhood—Grace Davoren. She was tripping along with a light and merry step, lilting an Irish air of a very lively character, to which she could scarcely prevent herself from dancing, so elastic and buoyant were her spirits. On coming to the brow of the glen she paused a moment and cast her eye searchingly around her, but seemed after the scrutiny to hesitate about proceeding farther.
Woodward immediately showed himself, and after beckoning to her, proceeded toward the well. She still paused, however, as if irresolute; but after one or two significant gestures on his part, she descended with a slow and apparently a timid step, and in a couple of minutes stood beside the well. The immediate purport of their conversation is not essential to this narrative; but, indeed, we presume that our readers may give a very good guess at it without any assistance from us. The beautiful girl was young, and credulous, and innocent, as might naturally be inferred from the confusion of her manner, and the tremulous tones of her voice, which, indeed, were seductive and full of natural melody. Her heart palpitated until its beatings might be heard, and she trembled with that kind of terror which is composed of apprehension and pleasure. That a gentleman—one of the quality—could condescend to feel any interest in a humble girl like her, was what she could scarcely have dreamed; but when he told her of her beauty, the natural elegance and symmetry of her figure, and added that he loved her better than any girl, either high or low, he had ever seen, she believed that his words were true, and her brain became almost giddy with wonder and delight. Then she considered what a triumph it was over all her female acquaintances, who, if they knew it, would certainly envy her even far more than they did already. After about half an hour's conversation the darkness set in, and she expressed an apprehension lest some of her family should come in quest of her—a circumstance, she said, which might be dangerous to them both. He then prevailed on her to promise another meeting, which at length she did; but on his taking leave of her she asked him by which way he intended to go home.